7 Steps to Maximize Your Harvest’s Nutrients

Written by: Karen Mills, Master Gardener Trainee

Credit: cottonbro

Eat more fruit and vegetables! We have all heard this command from many sources. And for good reason! Produce is the main source of many vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other nutrients in our diet. Did you know that if your garden includes fruit and vegetables, you may eat more produce than people who do not garden? This warms the hearts of your parents, dietitians, and doctors.

Any produce you eat is a good thing and includes all of those nutrients your doctor is hoping you will eat. But it does beg the question, is one tomato the same as another? Does a tomato have the same amount of nutrients in it regardless of where that tomato comes from, how it was grown, and how it is processed? Not necessarily. The condition of your soil, how you manage your garden, and how you harvest, store, and process your bounty can all impact the nutrient content of your produce. Whether you grow cucumbers in a container on your patio or have a large garden in your yard, how can you make sure that the produce you grow has the most nutrition possible? Follow these 7 steps to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck

Test Your Soil pH

  • The nutrient content of produce begins with healthy soil. If your garden soil pH is off, nutrients that might be in the soil may not be available to your plants. For example, if your soil is too acidic, your plants may not get enough calcium leading to blossom end rot in your zucchini and tomatoes. Adjust your soil pH in accordance with test results.
  • More information on soil pH

Test Your Soil Nutrients

  •  If your soil lacks nutrients, your produce will also lack nutrients. A soil test can tell you the amount of phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, and micronutrients you have to work with. Fertilize and amend your soil in accordance with the soil test, plant needs, and package instructions. Proper use of fertilizer and soil amendments can optimize produce flavor, texture, color, size, nutrient composition, and shelf life. Be careful – too much fertilizer can be just as bad as too little!
  • More information on fertilizing your garden.

Manage Your Garden Watering

Time Your Harvest

  • Know when your vegetables are at their peak and harvest as close to that time as you can. Every fruit and vegetable has its unique indicators of when to harvest. While many vegetables are at their highest deliciousness when allowed to fully ripen on the plant, allowing some vegetables to remain unharvested past the peak ripeness can result in inedible produce. For example, okra becomes woody and inedible when left to grow after peak maturity is achieved. Some produce can continue to ripen after harvest. While harvesting prior to maturity may prevent the neighborhood deer and squirrels from snacking on your tomatoes, early harvest means tomatoes lower in vitamin C than tomatoes left to ripen on the plant.
  • More information on harvesting, handling, and storing popular home garden crops.

Eat or Process as Quickly as You Can

  • Reduce the time between harvest and eating or processing as much as you can. As soon as you harvest fruit and vegetables, they start to lose nutrients. After all, you have removed the produce from the plant that provides nutrients and water. 

Store Your Harvest Appropriately

  •  If you do need to store your harvest, make sure that you are doing so correctly. Each type of produce prefers a specific type of storage environment. Storing your harvest correctly not only keeps it fresh longer but also helps retain nutrients. Some produce, such as snap beans, prefers cold, moist storage. Some produce, such as winter squash, prefers warm, dry storage.
  • More information on the particulars of storage

Pick a Preservation Method That Retains Nutrients

Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked, home-grown produce. Using these tips will help you get the most nutrition you can from all of your hard work, patience, and perseverance. Happy gardening!


Pests In July

Written By: Chad Kuwana, Master Gardener Volunteer Trainee

Black vine weevil
Credit: University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources

Check back in with your azaleas and rhododendrons this summer!

At this point of the year, summer is in full swing and daily high temperatures are consistently in the upper eighties and nineties. The beautiful spring weather that brought about stunning blooms in your garden is just a memory as you try to beat the heat with some freshly picked berries.

While some spring blooms may be holding on, most azalea and rhododendron bushes have lost their flowers and your attention has likely shifted to other parts of your garden like your fruits and vegetables. However, as you water your plants, you might notice notched edges on the leaves or fuzzy white spots on the branches of your azaleas or rhododendrons. These are signs that black vine weevils or scale might be present on your plants.

Black Vine Weevils – Otiorhynchus sulcatus


Black vine weevils are a type of beetle (Curculionidae) about ½ inch (12.7 mm) long. They cannot fly and are mostly black with small patches of white. The larvae are also about ½ inch (1.27 cm) long but are white with a brown head. Adult black vine weevils eat foliage and are most active at night. You will notice notches in leaves from where they were feeding. Larvae, however, feed on the roots of your azalea or rhododendron, so they can cause more severe damage to your plant as it can lead to diseases like Phytophthora root rot.

Damage from the black vine weevil.
Credit: University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources

Life Cycle

The reason you might be noticing evidence of their presence in July and early August is because of their life cycle. Black vine weevils usually emerge between May and June after overwintering in their larvae stage. Upon emerging they need anywhere between 21 and 28 days of feeding before they are ready to lay eggs and begin a new generation. Thus, peak adult populations are seen in the summer. Once they are ready to lay their eggs, black vine weevils can lay as many as 500 eggs over a two to three-week period.


Assuming you don’t have cultivars that are less susceptible to weevils in your garden, there are a few things you can do. 

If you’ve caught it early and the weevil population isn’t overwhelming, you can get rid of the weevils by hand. Once it’s dark (remember they are active at night), you can shake and beat the leaves over a sheet that will collect the fallen weevils and then dispose of them.

Another option is to use corrugated cardboard as a wrap around the trunk (also overnight). This wrap will serve as a trap so that when they seek shelter during the day, you can collect and dispose of them. Instead of a cardboard wrap, you can use a sticky material that will trap the weevils as they crawl up and down the trunk.

Lastly, you can also use parasitic nematodes to help control the infestation at the larval stage.

Azalea (rhododendron) Bark Scale – Eriococcus azaleae

Credit: Michigan State University Extension


Azalea bark scale are small insects about .13 inches (3.3 mm) long. They are red in color but are most recognizable by the fuzzy white sacs on twigs and branches. These egg sacs or ovisacs are important to remove during the summer so they do not hatch. When they hatch in September, the young scale will start to feed on the azalea or rhododendron by penetrating the bark and sucking out sap and will excrete a substance called honeydew. This honeydew will invite sooty mold and fungi to grow and cause your plant to look darkened, yellow, and/or sickly.

Credit: Michigan State University Extension

Life Cycle

The azalea bark scale lay their eggs in early April to hatch in May. During the summer, the young scale will feed and mature to produce the fuzzy white sacs in June and July. This is when you might notice the sticky substance on branches called honeydew and sooty mold covering the leaves. You might also start to see more fuzzy white sacs on the twigs and branches.


Starting with the fuzzy white sacs, you can brush them off with your fingernail or toothbrush. If an area is heavily infested, pruning is the best method for removal. Keep in mind also that fertilizing with too much nitrogen will support the population growth of scale.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully, this post can help you get familiar with these two pests that might be hurting your azaleas and/or rhododendrons. Please reference the resources below for more detailed and extensive information on monitoring and controlling these pests in your garden. It’s easy to forget all the details that go into keeping up your garden so make sure to check in with the OSU Extension Monthly Garden Calendar to help you stay on top of key garden chores throughout the year.


Tools Make Hand Weeding Easy

By: Chris Smith, Master Gardener Trainee

Are you trying to manage your garden weeds without chemicals? While I’m not endorsing any company, I’ve found a few hand-weeding tools that might help. And, possibly with tools for the task, you’ll see hand weeding as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and not merely a chore.

Credit: Chris Smith
Radius, 2-pronged, fork-tipped tools, and Hori-Hori Knife
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). These include long sleeves, long pants, closed-toed shoes, gloves, eye protection, and ear protection.
  • Avoid wearing loosely draped clothing or things that can be caught by tools when you work.
  • Be aware of your environment for safety risks.

Short Handled Tools:

Japanese Weeding Sickle

  • The weight of the tool is biased toward the front for easy handling
  • Typically, the edges are very sharp and come to a point
  • This tool works well on thick-stemmed roots

Half-moon Hand Garden Hoe

  • Works beneath the surface to pull the roots of the weed
  • Typically, the edges are very sharp
  • The crooked neck attached to the blade helps to correctly position the blade

CobraHead Weeder & Cultivator 

  • Available in a short or long-handle design
  • Blade is cobra-shaped and narrow for accurate digging
  • Blade is steel and is meant to break up and plow through soil

Radius Ergonomic Hand Weeder 

  • The curved handle enables manipulation without bending your wrist to reduce hand and wrist stress
  • Serrated, reinforced aluminum blade
  • The hand weeder is designed to slide deeply, alongside the root to pop out the root

Two Prong Weeding Fork (AKA Jekyll Weeder)

  • The two prongs are used to loosen the soil around the weed so that the root can be pried out
  • Useful for removing deep tap roots

Hori-Hori Soil Knife

  • Blade is 6-8 inches long
  • The edge of one side of the blade is smooth and the other is serrated
  • Useful for digging up and prying out weeds
  • Useful for cutting roots and splitting iris tubers

Long Handled Tools:

Grandpa’s Weeder Tool 

  • Allows you to grab weeds without bending over
  • Center the tool over the weed, then press the forked end into the ground
  • Next, tilt the handle, which closes the claw and grabs the root so that you can lift it out

Hula, Scuffle, or Stirrup Hoe

  • Works beneath the soil
  • Push or pull the blade toward you at a shallow depth
  • The movable blade uses a hula-motion to cut weeds with shallow roots that are close to the surface

Dandelion weeder, fishtail weeder

  • Forked-tip allows you to reach under and in-between places
  • Tends to make a small hole to access weed roots without disturbing close-by plants
  • Good for weeds with taproots 

Garden Seats, Kneelers, and Carts – can make your weeding project easier.

  • There are many different seat varieties, including some with wheels
  • Consider the height of the seat and the weight that you will carry as you move around your yard or garden
  • Again, there are many different kneeler varieties. Some have handles, and some can be turned upside down to make a seat
  • The design of the knee pads varies. Consider any physical needs you have that could influence your decision about the design and thickness of a knee pad
  • Wheeled carts are useful for carrying both your tools and the weeds you dig up
  • Carts come in a variety of sizes and weights you’ll want to consider before making a choice
  • An example of a clean-up cart made specifically for gardening is the Garden Clean-up Cart. It is sized to hold an 11-gallon plastic tub, with widely spaced wheels and a design to keep the tub level
Credit: Chris Smith
Tub Cart, Knee and Seat Pad, along with Grandpa’s Weeding Tool